Aberdeen lost the match, but they will have taken great heart from this performance ahead of Sunday's crunch semi-final. Aberdeen had three great chances in the opening ten minutes as Aluko and Magennis went close. The latter being denied by McGregor. In the 21st minute a very soft free kick stopped a potential scoring chance for Vernon and as luck would have it Rangers broke up field and scored against the run of play when Jelavic found the net with a spectacular overhead kick. Aberdeen went on to dominate the second half but couldn't finish off several good moves. A well worked free kick had Rangers scrambling the ball off the line, but the Glasgow side hung on to take all three points. Worryingly Smith went off in the second half and Aberdeen fans will be hoping this was just a precaution.
Rangers kicked off in a fairly sparse Pittodrie, but it was Aberdeen who threatened first when Magennis weaved his way down the right. His low cross found Aluko, but the Nigerian failed to get his shot away. A minute later it was déjà vu when Jack did the spade work, flicked the ball to Magennis and once again he found Aluko. This time he hit a fierce shot that went inches over the bar. Maguire won a free kick in the 5th minute, but it was quickly taken and the chance was lost. Aberdeen were dominating now and a minute later it was only a world class save that prevented a goal.
Magennis this time hit a powerful shot that had the keeper at full stretch to save. There were strong claims for a spot kick as Vernon appeared to be fouled just before the ball fell to Magennis. Rangers then won a series of soft free kicks that made Weir's challenge on Vernon look like a serious assault. Rangers carved out their first chance in the 11th minute when Maguire slipped up and allowed Papac to break. Langfield made a double save to keep him out before Rangers won their first corner.
It came to nothing, but Rangers had soaked up the early pressure and were beginning to threaten. They went close in the 14th minute when Jelavic fired inches wide of Langfield's post. Aluko was caught late by Ness in the 19th minute and was lucky to escape a caution. It did present Aberdeen with a dangerous chance, but Diamond couldn't steer the ball on target. Vernon had a great chance in the 21st minute, but Maguire was penalised for a nothing challenge in the build up as Whittaker appeared to stumble.
As is usual in these circumstances Aberdeen paid dearly as Rangers went up field and scored against the run of play. A cross was met by Jelavic with his back to goal and he scored with a spectacular overhead kick. The game erupted two minutes later when Maguire was fouled by Papac and Weir kicked the ball at the Dons striker. Maguire was outraged, but the referee took no action. Mr. Murray finally reached into his pocket when Ness committed another nasty foul on Maguire.
Aberdeen were pressing again as they tried to draw level, but they were being frustrated by some erratic decisions. On the half hour Maguire worked his way into the box, but his cut back was deflected into the arms of McGregor. A minute later Vernon ran on to a great cross from Aluko and forced a save from the keeper. He was adjudged offside as the fans prepared for a corner. Weir then made a mess of trying to head the ball clear, fell over and promptly won a free kick. It was embarrassing to watch.
In the 38th minute there were screams for a penalty from the Rangers section, but Aluko had made a great challenge to win the ball. Jack was heading toward the Gers box, but forgot to take the ball and at the other end Considine made a great challenge and was promptly penalised. Fortunately Rangers made little of the opportunity. Aluko then had a dig at goal in the 42nd minute, but the ball dipped just too late and landed on the roof of the net. Smith was caught late by Naismith, but the referee played advantage and never spoke to the player about his cynical challenge. A late free kick was wasted as Milsom fired well over, but the Dons were still in this one as the half time whistle went.
Rangers won an early free kick on the edge of the Dons box after Young had caught Naismith. The wall did their job and at the other end a ball into the Rangers box failed to pick out a red shirt. In the 51st minute McGregor was forced into a save, but the shot didn't have enough power. An error in the Rangers back line allowed Maguire to break, but his effort curled inches wide. Perhaps the simple pass to Vernon might have paid dividends.
Maguire was then penalised inside the Rangers box and was then manhandled by several Rangers players. No action was taken and seconds later Smith was ominously replaced by Robertson. At the same time Young was hobbling about as the Dons injury woes refused to ease. Just after the hour mark Edu was booked for aiming a kick at Maguire and from the resultant free kick Milsom swung the ball in, Diamond headed back and Magennis headed it straight at the keeper.
Aberdeen had the momentum now and a minute later Maguire was heading for goal, but Whittaker stopped his progress. The Dons then won a corner in the 70th minute just after Diouf replaced Wylde. The set play came to nothing and seconds later Milsom made a wild attempt on goal. A big appeal for a Dons penalty was dismissed in the 69th minute for hand ball and a minute later another probing ball into the box failed to find an Aberdeen forward.
Retaliation by Diouf in front of the referee went unpunished as the Dons went on to defend the free kick comfortably. A deliberate hand ball on the edge of the box by Whittaker again failed to produce a caution with Aluko bearing down on goal. The well worked free kick almost produced the leveller as the ball was booted off the line. The Dons pressure increased, but Aluko was penalised deep inside the Rangers box then a bit of play acting produced yet another free kick and Hutton fired an effort inches wide.
Another ridiculous free kick was awarded as Lafferty threw himself to the ground and Diamond was booked as his frustration showed. Rangers then forced a corner after Diouf won a free kick as he shoved his way forward. Their second corner of the match ended with Jelavic heading over. Blackman replaced Magennis in the 82nd minute and seconds later another cross from Jack again failed to find a red shirt. At the other end Young made a great block to prevent Lafferty from scoring as Rangers tried to hit on the break.
Time was slipping away for Aberdeen now and in the final minutes Aluko appeared to be making progress before being outnumbered. Rangers then wasted about 90 seconds making a substitution and then won two quick corners as time drifted away. A third corner followed as Aberdeen were pegged back for the first time in the match. A late rally failed to produce the deserved equaliser. Not even a late fumble from McGregor could prevent Rangers from escaping back down the road with all three points.